Steve Jobs told the US CEO of a coffee chain that he should fire his entire management team, and he did.

Apple’s Steve Jobs “screamed at” then-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in 2008, encouraging him to fire his management team.

Schultz has been in the corner office of the Seattle-founded company three times. He was the first to hold this position in 1987, when he bought the brand with local investors. In 2000, he stepped back and focused on global expansion.

His second tenure was from 2008 to 2018 and a return for one year in 2022.

Schultz’s return was important because it came at a time when the company needed a turnaround. The final appearance was after the pandemic of coronavirus, which was the perfect opportunity to steady the ship.

Schultz has relied on other Fortune 500 executives despite being used repeatedly as a “safe pair of hands” for a brand valued at more than US$92bil. It was in 2008 that Schultz was introduced to Jobs and asked for his advice about the board of director he had been given.

Schultz recalled his first encounter with Jobs on the Acquiredpodcast, which was released this week: “There was an upcoming meeting for Starbucks and Apple regarding mobile order and payment and other things. I had never met Steve before, but I was on the phone with him and telling him about what I was doing.

Jobs invited Schultz, whose company was headquartered in Washington, to Apple’s offices in Cupertino to discuss the issue in person. Apple’s offices at the time were located on the “Infinite Loop”, a campus of six buildings that surround an oval courtyard.

Jobs was known for his habit of walking around the courtyard. The current Apple CEO Tim Cook is also known to walk around Apple Park’s circular headquarters.

Schultz recalled that “Jobs” was all about walking. “He would go outside and walk around the building. So I went to the building and we basically took a stroll. I told him everything that was happening – all of my problems.

He said to me: “You need to go back to Seattle, and fire your entire leadership team.” I thought he had a joke on me.”

Schultz responded: “I said, what are you saying ‘fire everyone’? He replied: “I told you. (Expletive), fire all those employees. He was screaming in my face, “Fire all those individuals, that’s exactly what I would do.” I replied, “Steve, I can’t do it, who will do the job?”

He was right. They were all gone except for the general counsel.

Jobs and Schultz met again, and the former was proven right about his prediction.

“I spoke to him since then. We were on stage at an event together and I said: “They’re gone.” He replied: “Well, you are six months, or nine months late. Think about all you could have done.”

Missed Opportunity

Starbucks, the largest coffee chain in the world with over 32,000 outlets around the globe has made the most out of its opportunities.

Schultz regrets a few decisions, the most notable being not trademarking “caffe latte”, often called just latte, in America.

Starbucks helped standardise the lattes in America during the 1970s.

Schultz continued, “We brought caffe latte into America.” “We didn’t trademark it. “We trademarked Frappuccino but not caffe latte. I didn’t think.” – New York Times

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